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Building a Homemade Nuclear Reactor In NYC 219

Posted by samzenpus
from the extreme-diy dept.
yukk writes "Mark Suppes, a web developer for Gucci, is working on his own personal fusion reactor. His work in a NYC warehouse using $35,000 of his own money and $4,000 raised on a website has made him the 38th independent researcher recognized as creating a working fusion reactor. How's that for a hobby?"

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Building a Homemade Nuclear Reactor In NYC

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  • fusioneers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Verdatum (1257828) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @10:45AM (#32677836)
    I've worked with a couple of these people online before. Depending on where you mark the threshhold, there are a few more fusion hobbyists than most people would think. They're good to talk to because they are some of the few hobbyists playing with high vacuum technology (which interests me for the purpose of vacuum metalization, aka evaporative deposition).
  • by Aluminum Tuesday (317409) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @10:49AM (#32677916)

    Uh oh, I've heard this before... Wikipedia article about David Hahn, the 'Radioactive Boy Scout' [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:Simply a Fusor (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cillian (1003268) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @10:52AM (#32677962) Homepage
    Indeed, at our engineering department a student society just had one sitting on a table in a corner and didn't mention it, as though it was a completely normal thing to have around.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 24, 2010 @10:54AM (#32678000)

    The site you want to visit is www.fusor.net. He got the idea from this site. Spending $35K on this is really high. Most guys make there fusor for around couple $2k-$5K.Some do it for a couple of hundred dollars. It's all in how you scrounge for parts. I wish him luck, but he needs better scrounging skills.

  • by Sqweegee (968985) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @11:01AM (#32678104)

    Lots of people have made fusors, even high school students for science fairs.

    The article is really light on details, his setup looks far more complex than a basic fusor would need to be and I assume that's where he spent all the money. Getting good deals on things like used vacuum pumps you could probably do this for a couple of thousand. It's a neat hobby but fusors are far too inefficient to be used as anything other than a cheap neutron source, and even then only if you really up the voltage. Most make for a cool looking lamp.

  • Re:Uh Typo (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bickerdyke (670000) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @11:13AM (#32678282)

    But what happens to the neutrons? Wouldnt that be something similar than beta-rays?

  • by KenSeymour (81018) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @12:09PM (#32679068)

    An oldie but goodie from Tom Lehrer:

    First we got the bomb, and that was good,
    'Cause we love peace and motherhood.
    Then Russia got the bomb, but that's okay,
    'Cause the balance of power's maintained that way.
    Who's next?

    France got the bomb, but don't you grieve,
    'Cause they're on our side (I believe).
    China got the bomb, but have no fears,
    They can't wipe us out for at least five years.
    Who's next?

    Then Indonesia claimed that they
    Were gonna get one any day.
    South Africa wants two, that's right:
    One for the black and one for the white.
    Who's next?

    Egypt's gonna get one too,
    Just to use on you know who.
    So Israel's getting tense.
    Wants one in self defense.
    "The Lord's our shepherd," says the psalm,
    But just in case, we better get a bomb.
    Who's next?

    Luxembourg is next to go,
    And (who knows?) maybe Monaco.
    We'll try to stay serene and calm
    When Alabama gets the bomb.
    Who's next?
    Who's next?
    Who's next?
    Who's next?

  • by LoRdTAW (99712) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @12:26PM (#32679270)

    Its all the high vac stuff that gets expensive and time consuming, its a real pain in the ass. Good backing pumps and high vac pumps (like Diffusion or Turbomoleculer pumps) are tough to come by for cheap unless you are willing to rebuild them. I bought three smaller diffusion pumps off eBay for another experiment and let me tell you its not an easy task finding parts for a $20 nondescript pump you bought off ebay. Then your need vacuum valves to control the pump down process. First you need to rough the chamber and wait for the pressure to drop to about 4E-2 Torr and then keep it there to remove as much vapor as you possibly can. then close the roughing valve and then open the forline valve to pull the back of your high vac pump down and then open the main valve which exposes the high vac pump to the chamber. Those vacuum parts alone can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Also given the fact that high vacuum fittings like Kf or CF elbows, flex pipes, tees etc can cost $50-$100 each! I applaud him for throwing that much money at the problem, he looks like he built a nice fusor with the right parts the first time so he isn't spending hours trying to figure out why he cant pull a vacuum below the -3's (Torr).

    Its fun trying to iron out vacuum leaks! Especially without a $20,000+ helium leak detector. But a little vacuum grease on the KF O rings and making sure you tightened your CF flanges properly should help eliminate your problems.

    I was trying to build a small electron beam welder for fun. I work on them for a living now so it looked like a nice little project but its not easy or cheap. As of now its a half assembled pile of parts because I cant afford to keep throwing money at it. The 3HP Stokes Microvane (55CFM) alone cost me 550 bucks. And that was a lucky find, don tthink the seller knew what he had. And it needs a rebuild because it cant pull lower than 7E-1 Torr. I also need good vacuum gauges (dial gauges arent much help below a few Torr, and the old Hastings I got from work are not that reliable), Hastings makes real nice ones, have them at work but they cost about a grand for the low-med vac gauges (1E-4 Torr) and I believe 1500+ for the one that goes all the way to ultra high vac (good to 1E-10 Torr).

    Anyone who puts this kind of time, money and effort in to their hobby is a real dedicated person. My hats off to you Mr. Suppes.

  • by DCFusor (1763438) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @06:52PM (#32685002) Homepage
    In fact, our open source fusor forum, http://www.fusor.net/board/index.php?site=fusor [fusor.net] doesn't even know this guy, or I don't recognize him, anyway -- we usually use our real names there. It's been around for quite awhile too -- if you go there look at the archives and see for yourself. Not only does this represent a dupe, and not to take anything away from this guy, he's far from alone, and unless he is making over 2 million neutrons/second on less than 5w power input, he's not even caught up to the current hobby record, which as far as I know, I hold -- some of it shown at http://www.coultersmithing.com/ [coultersmithing.com] , my site (which can take a slashdotting much better than the forum can, which is "some guy" hosting from home -- the perfessor we call him and are grateful. If you go there you'll find many more than 38 folks with working fusors I think. The pic in the BBC article looks in fact like one copied from one of our (main) forum members fusors, Richard Hull (see wikipedia on that). Again, not taking anything away from the guy -- the more the merrier -- hope he catches up with the rest of us at some point, as we have refined the Farnsworth concept quite a bit over the years, and made much more progress than is normally reported, because what funding is done is either to ITER with their non working approach, or NIF, which is really a weapons stewardship test device. Mod me up, damnit -- this is sick, we've been doing this for decades and are pretty good at it, and nearly all of us have done it *purely* with our own earned bucks, not taking contributions from people dumb enough to donate for no return. I guess we mostly care more about the science than being 15-minute famous. And most of us (but not I) have done it for a lot less money than that. We have a few high school students who have made working fusors on high school student spare change kinds of money. I had the bucks, so I went whole hog and do a real science approach myself, but I am the exception, not the rule. Strictly speaking it's against regulations to make a device that makes either X rays or Neutrons without some paperwork, so that's another incorrect statement, and many hobby fusors make amounts that would be dangerous if we weren't careful, and part of what we do on our forum is mention what we have "activated" eg made our own radioisotopes via neutrons from fusors.
  • Re:Simply a Fusor (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n ... t ['etz' in gap]> on Thursday June 24, 2010 @10:23PM (#32686482) Homepage Journal

    After sinking your teeth into a fusor, perhaps you can try to tackle a Polywell [wikipedia.org] fusion device as the next step. While a few dozen or more people have built fusors, the number who have gone after the Polywell devices is certainly quite a bit less.

    Of course the tough part of the Polywell devices is the theoretical work that Robert Bussard did to come up with the idea and the raw research being done right now to get the concept working. Supposedly the eighth version of this reactor design has been built and demonstrated by now (with continuing work on the effort), but the research team has yet to report back on the results. If the design works out, the U.S. Navy is interested in potentially using the design for nuclear powered submarines and carriers (why this has naval funding) but it is also useful for pure atomic energy research as well.

    As for a hobbyist using a neutron source..... that could get scary for other reasons as a reliable neutron source can be used to transmute heavy metals. While not something in an of itself nasty some kid might be able to get a reaction or two with some interesting metals to get some really fun radioactive isotopes.

If a thing's worth having, it's worth cheating for. -- W.C. Fields

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